Oxford's revamped Ashmolean can now "do drama"

Fri Nov 6, 2009 1:59pm EST
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By Eleanor McCausland

OXFORD, England (Reuters Life!) - T.E. Lawrence's Arab dress, an entire Japanese tea house and the best Aegean history collection outside Greece will be star exhibits when Britain's oldest public museum re-opens on Saturday.

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford will swing wide its doors after a multimillion pound renovation, which has seen the museum closed to the public for the last 10 months.

The refurbished Ashmolean comprises 39 new galleries, including four temporary exhibition galleries, a new education center and state-of-the art conservation studios.

The building, designed by award-winning Rick Mather Architects, not only doubled the Ashmolean's display space, but also offered the opportunity to completely redesign the presentation of the museum's artifacts.

"From the outset, our ambition has been to create not just an improved and expanded version of Britain's oldest public museum, but something significantly different in kind: a new way of showcasing the Ashmolean's remarkable collections, for the benefit of the widest possible audience," Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean told Reuters.

The Ashmolean has called its display strategy "Crossing Cultures Crossing Time," and says it is based on the idea that the civilizations which shaped our modern societies developed as part of an interrelated world culture, rather than in isolation.

Thematic galleries connect activities and objects common to different cultures, such as money, reading and writing, and the representation of the human image.

Project Director Henry Kim said that strange things used to happen when navigating the old museum.   Continued...